14 Stunning photos of the Earth remind us how important conservation is for all of us

Great Barrier Reef

Comprised of nearly 3,000 reefs and islands and stretching over 1,400 miles, The Great Barrier Reef provides a home to thousands of different species. Tropical fish, sea turtles, dolphins, seahorses, and some of the rarest coral species in the world all make their homes here, and the reef is seriously threatened by both climate change and pollution. This protective habitat also absorbs strong waves that would otherwise wreak havoc on the marine life in the area, but the coral reefs that make up the majority of the structure are deteriorating.

Red Squirrel, England

Did you know that squirrels were introduced to American parks in the late 1800s to maintain people’s health and sanity? These sweet little creatures are friendly and trusting, and can develop a great rapport with the people who feed and play with them. Red squirrels, native to the UK, are becoming increasingly rare as they’re killed off by larger grey squirrels that were introduced to Britain from the USA last century. Deforestation is also a major issue, as the red squirrels prefer to live in coniferous forests… which are also popular with furniture companies.

Related: Norway, US, and UK Pledge $280 Million to Fight Deforestation

Stone Forest, Madagascar

The Tsingy stone forest in Madagascar is a wonder to behold, and even more amazing when you consider the number of species that live within its rocky outcroppings. All of Madagascar is incredibly rich in plant and animal species, but the combination of deforestation and the illegal wildlife trade is threatening the future of this majestic land. People’s hunger for rosewood, as well as exotic pets such as geckos, chameleons, and snakes, may destroy the majority of the area’s wildlife within the next few decades.

Wing Scales of an Owl Moth at 40x magnification

This gorgeous image might not be recognizable immediately, but take a good look: it’s a magnified view of a common owl moth’s wing. Stunning, isn’t it? Although butterflies tend to be more popular than their duskier cousins, moths are actually far better pollinators than they are, and do most of their work when everyone else is asleep. Pesticides and herbicides have been destroying moth numbers as well as those of bees, and the loss of pollinators will result in worldwide crop failure and hunger. There are organic ways to deal with unwanted weeds and insects that won’t result in killing off those we need most, and poisoning us all in the process.

Related: Attracting Pollinators – How to Encourage Bees, Butterflies, and Beneficial Insects to Visit Your Garden

The Giant’s Causeway, Ireland

Located in County Antrim in Northern Ireland, The Giant’s Causeway (Clochán an Aifir) is one of three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the British Isles. Its stunning geological formations are absolutely mind-blowing, as its enormous (mostly) hexagonal pillars sink into the sea. The area is a haven for sea birds, and is also home to several rare/endangered plant species such as frog orchids. Climate change is causing severe damage to this site, mainly from coastal erosion and rising water levels. Entire nature reserves along the coast could be underwater within twenty years.

Jellyfish, Up Close and Personal

The delicate, frond-like tendrils of a jellyfish are gorgeous to look at, but many of them are so full of venom that they can leave permanent damage to those they come in contact with. Rather than being threatened by encroaching human activity, jellyfish thrive on over-fishing and pollution, and they’ve grown in number so much that they’re infesting beaches and shallow waters around the world. Some jellyfish stings can be fatal to humans, and if a bloom of these little beasts collides with a fishing operation in open waters, those tentacles can kill all the fish within the nets. From an ABC News report on the subject: “The jellyfish are a message in a bottle that the sea is depositing on our beaches,” (oceanographer Joseph Gili) says. The ocean’s message to mankind, he adds, is simple: “You are destroying me.”

Related: Jellyfish Force Huge Nuclear Reactor to Shut Down in Sweden

Gran Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

The largest salt flat in the world lies in southwest Bolivia, 12,000 feet above sea level. It’s a vital region for migrating birds such as flamingos and geese, and of the 250 cacti species that grow in the region, 70% exist nowhere else on earth. Lithium, magnesium, and potassium are all concentrated beneath the crust, and many international corporations are pressuring the Bolivian government to allow them to extract these minerals. So far they’ve been met with strong opposition, but if they’re allowed into the region, the results to the surrounding ecosystem could be catastrophic.

King Penguin Breeding Colony, Antarctica

Penguins are rather delightful creatures, aren’t they? Pudgy and adorable, these flightless birds waddle around awkwardly on land but soar and swoop when they’re in the water. Ocean pollution, climate change, and overfishing have put these little wonders on the WWF’s endangered species list, and those who steal their eggs and hunt them for oil have contributed to their dwindling numbers as well.

Related: Scientists Believe Climate Change is Responsible for Penguin Chick Deaths

Paria Canyon, USA

The undulating walls of Paria Canyon in were formed over thousands of years as sediment-rich water roiled through the canyon, gouging at the surrounding stone. Countless plant and animal species call this area home, but invasive species such as non-native tamarisk and Russian olive have been establishing themselves in the area, reducing plant biodiversity and altering water movement. Recent climate changes and intense storms have also caused flash floods throughout the region.

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